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ICRISAT scientist receives global award for crop diversity

Six scientists conferred inaugural Legacy Award for dedicating their careers to crop conservation


Dr Hari D Upadhyaya during a feild visit
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Dr Hari D Upadhyaya from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), India, has received the global Legacy Awards, along with five other scientists, for exceptional contribution through his lifetime’s work on preservation of crop diversity.

“The Crop Trust Legacy Award recipients are the global gatekeepers of crop diversity, having spent decades committed to their belief in the absolute importance of seed conservation,” said Marie Haga, Executive Director of the Crop Trust. “They understand – and have helped thousands of others learn about - the deep connection between seeds, our agricultural history, and our future. Without the passion and dedication of these scientists the world would be a far less rich, far less diverse place,” Haga added.

“This award is unique as it recognises ICRISAT’s work not only in conservation of germplasm for global community, but also our unparalleled efforts in making this diversity usable through outstanding research. ICRISAT has deposited over 111,000 accessions of its mandate crops and five small millets at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault,” Dr Upadhyaya said. 

“Conservation of crop diversity is critical to safeguarding the future generation seeds and crops that would otherwise be lost to humanity. It is critical to work tirelessly and relentlessly, as we owe this to the future generation. I am humbled by this honour and happy for the recognition for fellow “gatekeepers” of crop diversity,” he added.

Dr Upadhyaya is currently based at ICRISAT’s headquarters in Hyderabad as Head, Genebank, and Principal Scientist. He has received several international awards in recognition of his contribution to the field of seed conservation and promotion of crop diversity.

ICRISAT’s Genebank initiative works to address the challenges of climate change, desertification, land degradation and a host of other factors that threaten to impact the productivity and resilience of crops in the drylands, with severe consequences for food security. Evaluating germplasm for traits of economic importance and using them in crop improvement programmes with the help of modern tools can stave off hunger and preserve crop diversity for the future.

The award was formally conferred in Svalbard, Norway, on Sunday (25th February) to coincide with the latest shipments of more than 70,000 seeds to the iconic Seed Vault. These will take the total number of seed samples deposited there over the last decade to more than one million. Deposits are made by genebanks from all over the world, to back up their own collections safely and securely.

Several of the Crop Trust Legacy Award recipients have made invaluable contribution at the vitally important genebanks of CGIAR, which conserve and share hundreds of thousands of seeds of food and forage crops. Duplicates of seeds from CGIAR genebanks make up the majority of varieties currently backed up in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

The full list of Crop Trust Legacy Award recipients includes:

  • Daniel Debouck – International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Colombia
  • Jean Hanson – International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Ethiopia
  • Ahmed Amri – International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Morocco
  • Hari D Upadhyaya – International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), India
  • Dave Ellis – International Potato Center (CIP), Peru
  • Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton – International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Philippines

In addition, a Legacy Award will also be given to Cary Fowler. Cary was one of the visionaries of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and worked tirelessly for its creation. He is currently a special advisor to the Crop Trust after serving as the organisation’s Executive Director from 2007-2012, a period that saw the Vault being designed and constructed, as well as receiving its first shipments of seeds in 2008.

All recipients will receive a personalised award featuring specially commissioned artwork by Sophie Munns.

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